The Changing Face of InfoComm

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The InfoComm USA show, taking place from now through this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, is undergoing a radical transformation. The show, typically the premier audio-video integration show in the United States, has seen the loss of a major exhibitor that has been more than compensated for by key companies from the streaming industry.

InfoComm has traditionally, at least in the past fifteen years that I've attended the show, been all about the audio-video integrator -- typically a "mom and pop" shop that installs capture and display technologies for classrooms, corporate boardroom and training facilities, and houses of worship. While there have been several attempts at fiscal and corporate integration between some of the larger AV installers, those plans have more often than not devolved -- or outright dissolved -- as the integration market is highly fragmented.

Various elements of InfoComm, from the Extron Bash -- a private concert put on by one of the largest product manufacturers -- to the projector shootout that compares 2k and 4k projectors, were centered on the idea of aiding the community in establishing contacts and technical advice for projects that may span several states or even countries. In short, InfoComm has been a gathering place.

In the last year, though, two curious things have happened at InfoComm: the streaming companies have arrived, and Extron has departed.

Let's talk about the streaming companies first: after four years of talking to streaming product and service companies at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show about other shows I'd recommend, besides NAB, IBC, and the Streaming Media shows, a number of streaming companies have decided that they can address a wide, albeit disparate, channel by attending the InfoComm show.

Some of the companies have naturally fallen into InfoComm, with HaiVision being a good example, as the company is exhibiting for a sixth year. This year, the company is building on the success of its Cool Sign digital signage by showcasing secure IP video and digital signage in its CoolSign 5.0 software release.

Other companies, like CQ Media, leverage years of experience in the AV integration world to deliver digital signage solutions like Hypersign and Hypersign enterprise, for digital signage and emergency alert notification that includes streaming components.

Still other companies, like Wowza Media Systems, have recognized the potential of the number of AV integrators that are pushing the envelope of streaming media, either in stand-alone installations or as part of the larger integration of existing videoconferencing and telepresence systems with live streaming broadcast capabilities.

But what about Extron? The company is clearly known as a leader in the AV integration field, and launched its first H.264 streaming product -- several years in the making -- at last year's InfoComm. Why would a company that dominates a fragmented industry and sees the need for streaming pull out of an event that's rapidly gaining a streaming focus?

The answer lies partially in an open letter that Extron's owner, Andrew Edwards, posted just a few months before this year's InfoComm show: 

"Extron has exhibited at every InfoComm USA show since 1986 and at ISE Integrated Systems Europe since 1999," said Edwards. "We have concluded that the time and energy put into exhibiting at these short three-day events can better serve you by being repurposed toward activities that provide direct benefit and support for you, our customers."

Edwards goes on to say that Extron is focused on the creation of additional Extron support and training facilities, and the company has continued to send out reminders that it is not exhibiting at the show and that its internal training facilities are growing both domestically and internationally. It makes no mention of the Extron Bash, one of the highlights of InfoComm, or the reasoning that the company chose to pull out so close to the 2012 event.

The company has made two moves to keep itself within the InfoComm spotlight, however, which brings in to question the impact of dropping out of InfoComm:

First, the company made several new product announcements yesterday and today to counter other products being exhibited on the InfoComm show floor.

Second, Extron plans to exhibit at several two- and three-day shows put on by InfoComm. These include shows in Mexico, Australia, Dubai, and Moscow.

The company will also exhibit at the annual IBC show in Amsterdam in September, and appears poised to be part of the 2013 NAB show in Las Vegas, both events focusing on the broadcaster.

Yet, its new streaming appliance isn't a broadcast product and better serves the AV integration market, making the decision to pull out of the InfoComm USA show all the more curious. For other streaming companies currently exhibiting at InfoComm, this may be the opportunity they need to break into this highly lucrative market vertical.

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